UF Student’s Death Prompts Discussion On Bicycle Safety

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Though many of the specifics of the crash have yet to be released, Friday’s collision between a bicycle and a garbage truck that resulted in the death of University of Florida student Abigail Dougherty has brought about discussions on bicycle safety in Gainesville.

Bicyclists on sidewalks have the same rights as pedestrians, said Marie Banks, an attorney with the personal injury law firm Schackow & Mercadante.

But they also have to yield to pedestrians, she added. “And if they’re in the road, they have the same rights and duties as a vehicle.”

According to the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide, motorists should stay at least 3 feet from bicyclists while sharing the road.

“The 3-foot rule is great,” said Martin Cox, an employee at the Super Cool Bike Shop in Gainesville. “However, I’ve never seen it enforced. I’ve never been given 3 feet consistently.”

Gainesville motorist Matthew Schroeder said he tries to give bicycles as much space as possible.

“I always move over to the other lane,” he said. “Even if it’s a one-way each way, you still move over a little bit if you can.”

With pedestrians, bicyclists and cars crossing at the same spot, intersections can be especially dangerous.

If a motorist and a bicyclist in a bicycle lane are approaching an intersection, the motorist should yield to the bicyclist before turning right, Banks said.

However, without a bicyclist in the bicycle lane, drivers should slow down and turn their blinkers on before entering the bike lane, she said. “That way, you’re establishing that you are turning.”

Everyone on the road needs to be aware of their surroundings, Schroeder said.

“Don’t be in a hurry,” he said. “Stop when you need to stop.”

But, bicyclist Jason Hickman noted, “you have to look out for us, as well, as we have to look out for you, too.”

About Daniela Hurtado

Daniela is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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